Thursday, 21 March 2013

Graduate School and the Academic Job Market

Today, I chaired a session at UTC entitled, "Graduate School, the Academic Job Market, and the Life of Young Professors." I organized a panel consisting of two professors in each of the following humanities disciplines: history, English studies, religion, and philosophy.

Here are the highlights of the session:

Points of Agreement
  • Teaching full-time at a university is rewarding.
  • Being a professor is well worth all the financial and personal struggles, if you land a tenure-track job.
  • Despite all that you do to build up a strong cv, there is an element of luck/providence in securing a full-time faculty position.
  • You should have a solid backup plan in case you cannot find full-time employment as a professor.
  • To be a strong candidate for faculty employment, you should have at least some peer-reviewed journal articles and ideally a book (or book contract).

Points of Disagreement
  • Not everyone had a favorable experience at graduate school. While some panelists had a great time reading interesting books and enjoying the culture of the city in which they lived, others felt lonely, overwhelmed, and uninspired by their courses, advisers, and reading list.
  • More than half of the panelists felt strongly that you should not go to graduate school if you are married; almost everyone (but me) said that you should not go to graduate school if you have children.
  • About half the panelists said that there is value in a graduate school education that does not lead to full-time employment as a professor. The other half argued that it was a waste of time and money to go to graduate school (in the humanities) without the intent of becoming a professor.
  • The panelists were split on whether you should go to graduate school if you are not offered free tuition and/or a stipend.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing the summary. And it's certainly kind of you to go to such trouble for the benefit of your students. I would have liked to have been there myself.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement from your panel—and this from those who won the jackpot. What might be even more interesting—but, admittedly, a lot more work for you!—would be to assemble a truly representative panel, one that includes PhD dropouts, PhDs in adjuncting or other nontenured teaching roles (UTC certainly has those), and PhDs who aspired to work in academe but find themselves pursuing Plan B—or C or D or . . . Such an event would be hard to pull off, and emotions might run high among your panel members, but it would do the best job of giving students a felt sense of the full range of outcomes.

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

Thanks for your comments. The panelists definitely admitted that they were one of the few "lucky" ones who landed jobs. We also had a lecturer (non-tenure-track) on the panel, who told the audience that she applied for the open tenure-track position in modern American history at UTC, but was not selected as a finalist. She was quite candid in stating her belief that she was as qualified or more so than at least two of the finalists chosen. She is currently waiting to find out if UTC will renew her annual contract for next year.